Effectiveness of Pollinator Habitat

General Page Media
bumble bee on thistle

Led by: Susannah Lerman and Adam Kay

Bees and other pollinators are experiencing severe declines, primarily due to habitat loss, that have cascading effects on urban, agricultural, and natural landscapes and the people that depend on them. Understanding how to maintain and increase beneficial pollinator habitat throughout MSP could have significant and positive impacts on insect pollinator populations. We are testing the effectiveness of the new state-wide “Bee Lawn” program for transforming MSP into a refuge for pollinators. This research will be useful for managers of the bee lawn program by providing detailed information on optimal soil properties, plant mixes, lawn size, and locations for supporting pollinators.

Do you have a lawn that you manage or mow? We would like to work with you!

We are researchers from the University of Minnesota, University of St Thomas and the US Forest Service studying how yards and lawns can serve as bee habitat. This research is part of a long-term research project funded by the National Science Foundation. We are researching how bees respond to different lawn management practices as part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Long-Term Ecological Research (MSP LTER) project.

Our sampling would entail surveying the vegetation, soils, and insects in your yard. The sampling would not be damaging in any way, but we would need access to your front and back yards. The sampling would take ~1-2 hours and would occur 1-2 times during June-August, 2021 (vegetation sampling only) and in subsequent years, 5 times during June-August. We plan on continuing this research for at least 6 years, but you would be able to drop out of the study at any time. To read more information about our project and the type of sampling we will do, please scroll down. Be assured that the study information will be kept confidential, and no information will be released that can be linked to you. We will provide a report on our findings at the end of the study.

Thank you very much for your time! If you are interested in participating in this research, please fill out this brief form (Link to Google Form to sign up). In the event we find more willing participants than are needed and won’t be able to assess your lawn, we will let you know. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email Adam Kay, Biology Professor, University of St. Thomas, [email protected].

Project Description. In this project, we hope to learn how bees, soils and plants differ in residential yards with different management practices.

Yard sampling description. If you elect to participate in our study, we will make several visits to your yard over the next six years. Based on your preference, we will email, call, or text you at least one day before we visit. You can let us know if you need notice earlier. You do not need to be home when we are there, but if you are, we will enjoy speaking with you about our study.


Number of Visits


Approximate Time Frame

Number of Researchers


1 per year

plant survey, soil collection

once during the summer


2021, 2026

1 in 2021, 1 in 2026

phone discussion about yard management choices




4 per year

insect survey

twice in June, twice in July



Bee Surveys. Starting in 2022, one or two researchers will make several visits in June and July to collect bees. Researchers will visit the front and back yard and place small plastic cups filled with soapy water for 24 hours. The bee bowls are pet-safe and we will place them in areas of low foot traffic. We will also collect bees using a net.

Soil Collection. During one of our visits, we will collect a small amount of soil. This task will involve taking approximately 4-6 small soil cores in your yard. Holes will be filled and disturbance will be minimized. 

Soil coring (left) and example of hole from soil coring (right, with a quarter for scale)

Plant Survey. A team of 2-3 researchers will make one visit each year to identify all the different plant species in your lawn. We will need access to both your front and back yard for for the visit, and we will be on site for approximately 2-3 hours. No plants will be disturbed.

Household Survey. In the fall of 2021, we will contact you for a short phone conversation about your yard management choices and what you plan to do in the future. In the winter of 2022, we will invite you for a zoom or phone conversation about the role of policies, programs, and neighborhood activities in shaping residential yards in your city.

Thank you for reading this information, and we hope that you will participate in our study! If you choose to participate, we are happy to provide you with a list of all of the plant and insect species we find in your yard.